Kyrgyzstan is the only former Soviet Central Asian republic to start out with two official languages, in this case Russian and Kyrgyz. An aggressive post-Soviet campaign was established to make the latter the official national language in all commercial and government uses by 1997; Russian is still used extensively, and the non-Kyrgyz population, most of them are not Kyrgyz speakers, but hostile to forcible Kyrgyzification.
Kyrgyzstan has a high literacy rate (99%), and a strong tradition of educating all citizens. However, its ambitious program to restructure the Soviet educational system is hampered by low funding and loss of teachers. School attendance is mandatory through grade nine. Kyrgyz is increasingly used for instruction; the transition from Russian to Kyrgyz has been hampered by lack of textbooks. It remains to be seen, whether Russian will continue as the second language of choice, or whether English will supersede it as a lingua franca.
Manas is a traditional epic poem of the Kyrgyz people and the name of the epic’s eponymous hero. The poem, with close to half a million lines, is twenty times longer than Homer’s Odyssey and the longest epic in the world. It is a patriotic work recounting the exploits of Manas and his descendants and followers, who fought against the Chinese and Kalmyks in the ninth century to preserve Kyrgyz independence.
Kyrgyz Traditional Music & Instruments
Aside from the komuz, Kyrgyz folk instruments include the kyl kiak (qyl-qyiyak), a two-stringed upright bow instrument (cf. fiddle), sybyzgy, a side-blown flute, chopo-choor and the temir ooz komuz (mouth komuz), also known as jew’s harp in some countries. The komuz is the national instrument of Kyrgyzstan. It is a plucked string instrument. The kyl kiak, however, is also an important symbol of Kyrgyz identity. It is a string instrument, related to the Mongolian morin-huur, and is associated with horses and the vital role they play in Kyrgyz culture.
Kyrgyz textile work
Kyrgyz women produce a wide range of textiles, mostly from the felt of their sheep. Ancient patterns are nowadays adapted to the tourist and export market, but it is still a living tradition, in that all yurts and most houses contain hand-made carpets or rugs called Shyrdak.
Tush kyiz are large, elaborately embroidered wall hangings, traditionally made in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan by elder women to commemorate the marriage of a son or daughter.
Colors and designs are chosen to symbolize Kyrgyz traditions and rural life. Flowers, plants, animals, stylized horns, national designs and emblems of Kyrgyz life are often found in these ornate and colorful embroideries. Designs are sometimes dated and signed by the artist upon completion of the work, which may take years to finish. The tush kyiz is hung in the yurt over the marriage bed of the couple, and symbolize their pride in their Kyrgyz traditions.
Flat cushions called “Tushyok”, which are usually made in shadow-pairs. These are seen on every chair, padding the seat.
Kyrgyzstan Traditional Cuisine
Traditional Kyrgyz food revolves around mutton and horse meat, as well as various milk products. The cooking techniques and major ingredients have been strongly influenced by the nation’s nomadic way of life. For example, most cooking techniques are mostly aimed at long-term preservation of food. Mutton is the favorite meat, although it is not always affordable.
Kyrgyzstan is a home to many different nationalities and their various cuisines. In larger cities, such as Bishkek, Osh, Jalal-Abad, and Karakol, you can find many options at any price range. On the road and in the villages, the cuisine tends to be standard Kyrgyz dishes, liberally flavored with oil or sheep fat, which are considered both delicious and extremely healthy by the local population.
Hunting with birds in Kyrgyzstan
Hunting with eagles is also ancient Kyrgyz tradition; the hunters with eagles are called berkutchy by Kyrgyz people.
Berkutchy is a life’s profession, and in Kyrgyzstan is often a hereditary one. The relationship of the bird and its master is constant, and all-consuming. In the training of a young eagle, the berkutchy must sacrifice his sleep for a long period. For weeks, the growing bird is rendered sightless under its hood until its dependence on its master become complete. Such intimacy must turn into a lifelong trust with the eagle – twenty years or more. It is said that as the man trains the eagle, so does the eagle trains his man. There is a proverb in Kyrgyz: “There are three things a real man should have: a fast horse, a hound, and a golden eagle”.
Kyrgyz Horse Games Festival
From the ancient time horses played a big role for people in Kyrgyzstan. In the 3rd century people were even buried with their horses. Children were given the name of horses, because it was believed that evil spirits were afraid of horses.
There are many horse games in Kyrgyzstan. The most widespread games are:
Ulak Tartish. The origin of this game developed in antiquity when herds of cattle grazed in the steppes and mountains all year round, exposed to possible attacks by wolves or other big-sized predators.
Nomads did not have firearms and that is why shepherds could not deal with wolves. In this way they were beating a wolf with sticks until somebody managed to catch it and to through up. The wolf would break his bones and would not be able to move anymore.
People wanted to be ready for such cases and they began to have wrestling on horseback for a goat’s carcass. The weigh of a goat on an average is 30 – 40 kilograms. The game is played on a field that is 300 meters long and 150 meters wide. The goal of the game is to seize the goat’s carcass and deliver it into the gates of the contesting team.
Aht Chabysh is Long-Distant Race. Usually this game took place in connection with some holiday or festival. The distance was 100 kilometers. Very often the riders were young boys of 10-13 years age, sometimes riding without a saddle.
Oodarysh – Wrestling on Horseback. Wrestling on horseback is also a popular activity. There are two riders, who try to pull each other off their horses. It is allowed to throw the rival together with his horse to the ground.
Kyz-Kumai – Chase the bride. In older times, this game was a part of the wedding. The bride had the best horse and she had to ride away from her groom. The husband-to-be had to chase her and prove his love by giving all in order to catch her. The game stopped when he caught and kissed her. As mentioned above, the groom got the worse horse, why he would sometimes fail to catch his fiancée. In this case, he would ride away and his fiancée would follow him to beat with her Kamchi (horse-whip). But the wedding would be held anyway.
Besides the above-mentioned, there are also games where a rider shows his skills by picking up a coin from the ground or shooting at a target while galloping, as well as many others interesting tasks.
Kyrgyzstan festivals are a reflection of the rich history of nomadic customs and traditions of the Kyrgyz people. During the holidays, men traditionally demonstrate their equestrian and racing skills, hunters compete in archery and falconry hunting, and women present their handicrafts.
Today, as hundreds year ago, the Kyrgyz still organize big festivals, uniting people not only from Kyrgyzstan, but also from different countries. The most popular of these are Orozo Ait, At Chabysh festival, National horse games, Nooruz, Taigan and Burkut Festival. Festivals are held on picturesque jailoo (pasture), with installation of Yurt (tents), preparation of national dishes, arranging exhibitions and sales of folk crafts items. items.
The National Festivals of Kyrgyzstan is the best way to enjoy the atmosphere of the Kyrgyz centuries-old traditions.
This feast, known as Eid al-Fitr in Arabic, at the end of Ramadan is celebrated with a large meal shared by family and friends. Gifts of new clothes and alms to the poor are traditionally given at this time.
At Chabysh festival
A horse-centred outdoor festival that involves long-distance horse races, traditional horse games, poetry competitions, music concerts and handicraft exhibitions.
National horse games
Horses are a large part of Kyrgyz culture and that is why every year National horse games are held. These include Ulak tartysh, where two teams of riders fight it out over a goat carcass and kyz-kumay, where the male rider has to catch up to horsewoman in order to receive his prize, a kiss.
Date: 21 March
Also, known as Navrus, this event, which dates back to Zoroastrian times, is the most important of the traditional holidays that takes place in Kyrgyzstan. At Nooruz, a special meal is prepared, friends are visited, debts are repaid and the whole country celebrates with music, dancing and traditional games.
We do not manage the events described on this page. Although, we always ready to provide the most relevant and accurate information under you request.